In 1686 the architect James Smith (c1645-1731) built a house for himself at Whitehill, later renamed Newhailes. Smith, appointed Surveyor of the King's Works in 1683, was a highly distinguished architect. Between the early 1680s and 1720 he was responsible for many major buildings, including Hamilton Palace (1693-1701) and Dalkeith Palace (1702-10).
Architectural evidence suggests that, during Smith's tenure, the main entrance front to Newhailes was on the north side. This was approached by an entrance drive off the Edinburgh-Musselburgh Road (A199) which led over Musselburgh Common to enter the Newhailes policies on an axis central to the north front. The drive led across the North Park and was bordered by two pairs of platoons planted to frame the views (Roy 1747-55) when seen from the house, and to frame the approach to the house.
In 1701 Smith sold the estate to Lord Bellenden, the second son of the 2nd Duke of Roxburghe, who renamed it Broughton. Smith retained some land at Wanton Walls, the southernmost end of the Newhailes estate, which seems to have been connected with his entrepreneurial activities in coal mining.
In 1709 Bellenden sold to Sir David Dalrymple (c1665-1721), who renamed the estate 'Newhailes' to distinguish it from his estate of Hailes Castle, East Lothian. Sir David Dalrymple, the fifth son of James, 1st Viscount Stair, was a distinguished statesman and lawyer. By 1709 he was M.P. for Haddington Burgh (1708-21) and Lord Advocate (1709-11 and 1714-20). He initiated an immediate scheme of improvement to the house and extended it to its present size. Although there is no record of the exact estate layout at this time there is evidence that gardens were laid out in 1718. He also appears in the list of subscribers to the 1st edition of John James's The Theory and Practice of Gardening (1712).
Sir James Dalrymple, 2nd Bt of Newhailes (1692-1751), graduated from Queen's College, Oxford. He travelled on a Grand Tour in 1712-13, visiting Venice and Padua in the company of Lord Herbert (c1689-1750), later 8th Earl of Pembroke, known as the Architect Earl and designer of the Palladian Bridge at Wilton, Wiltshire (Colvin, 1978, p.413-14). On succeeding his father, Dalrymple re-orientated the house so that the main entrance led in from the south, through a forecourt built in 1721. the forecourt and gate piers are similar to those at Chiswick House, London; the designs of which were published in 1733. Dalrymple increased the estate and parkland by a series of land exchanges, aimed to secure the seaward views along the Edinburgh-Musselburgh road, and restored areas of land from the effects of coal-mining and brick production.
He is accredited with laying out an ornamental landscape: 'In particular he planted both sides of a revulet running through the north part of the property, formed several ponds and waterfalls in the revulet, and a variety of grottoes and walks upon its banks; and the chief pleasure grounds of the place, now extend from the house and gardens along that revulet close to the Maitland Bridge upon the road from Edinburgh to Musselburgh.' (SRO, 1812). These rocco pleasure grounds stretched along the Newhailes Burn to the north of the house, were ornamented with a series of garden buildings and are notable as an early example of the 'natural' style. He sourced various architectural items from London, purchasing two lead statues of gladiators and two lead sphinxes from the studio of John Cheere in 1740; fireplaces for the house (from Sir Henry Cheere) and railings. The sphinxes sat on either side of the promontory lawn, laid out on the north front of the house (1893, OS 25") until 1847, when they were stolen.
Of the garden buildings ornamenting the grounds, the Obelisk, erected in 1746 to commemorate Sir James's cousin John, 2nd Earl of Stair (1673-1747), who fought as second in command to George II at Dettingen in 1743 (q.v. Inventory, Volume 5, p.176; 2, p.35), is principally anti-Jacobite in sentiment. The two commemorative dates on the Obelisk, 1715 and 1746, celebrate the long history of the Dalrymple family's support for the Union and the services of Stair, who served with Marlborough.
Seeds for the gardens were purchased from William Miller, Edinburgh, who also supplied seeds for Sir John Clerk's gardens at Mavisbank (q.v. Inventory, Volume 5, p.160), and with whom Dalrymple corresponded and exchanged exotics.
His son, Sir David Dalrymple (1726-92), 3rd Baronet, Lord Hailes, inherited the estate in 1751 and wrote The Annals of Scottish History , in Newhailes library – described by Doctor Johnson as 'the most learned drawing room in Europe'. Although few records relate to landscape works at this period there is a series of contemporary accounts of the park and gardens. Joseph Spence on a Scottish Tour in 1758-60, wrote of the 'woods coming down from the right towards the shore, & I was v. glad to find on enquiry that they were Sir D. Das: fortis a very pleasing place; (and only wants a few openings to cath the sea oftener in ye walks & in the intermix light among the shades) & a few scattered clump & little touches in the more modern way…' (quoted in Tait, 1989). Estate records indicate that the grotto was built in the gardens (1774-81), ornamented with 'shells, Corals and other things of the Kind' sent back from Canton by William Dalrymple.
Christian Dalrymple (1765-1838) succeeded to her father's property in 1792 and during the forty-six years of her residence at Newhailes she effected extensive improvements albeit in the face of industrial development surrounding Newhailes and its polluting effects on the landscape. This included the Pinkie Salt Pans, a skinnery and a glue factory complete with dead horses at Brunstane Mill (which was overlooked by walks through the pleasure grounds on the north-western Newhailes boundary) and coal mining at Craighall. The latter threatened to injure 'the Springs of Water, Rivulets or Pools of water, Houses, Walls, Trees …the whole Park around the House of New Hailes is a pleasure ground and immediately under the eye of the Proprietor…' (SRO GD 246/63/4/piece I).
Miss Dalrymple further extended and embellished the pleasure grounds; planned a new Flower Garden; improved and extended the park; constructed a new south approach to the mansion associated with the construction of a new office and stable court, and laid out new walks and a southern area of parkland. During the 1820s to 1836 she commissioned John Hay (1758-1836) to design the new Flower Garden (1818), a Hot Wall (1821) and an extension the pleasure grounds laid out within the perimeter park belt. These works were all in a style typical of the Regency period, with flower gardens set out around flowing, curvilinear paths and paisley-pattern shaped beds and specialist gardens including an American Garden and Rosery.
A canal indicated on the 1798, 1840 plans and the 2nd edition OS (25") is no longer extant, but Lady Antonia Dalrymple (interviewed 1993) remembers the remnants of a pond in this area which was subsequently filled in.